India has ranked 102nd among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI). In 2018, India had ranked 55 among 77 nations listed in the GHI. South Asian countries like Pakistan (94), Bangladesh (88) and Sri Lanka (66) have fared better than India, says a report prepared by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.
India is among 45 countries that have serious levels of hunger. The report says several countries have higher hunger levels now than in 2010, and around 45 countries are set to fail to achieve low levels of hunger by 2030. The GHI report says hunger is the highest in South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara region. "South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara are the regions with the highest 2019 GHI scores, at 29.3 and 28.4 respectively, indicating serious levels of hunger," says the report.
India's 'child wasting rate' (low weight for height) is extremely high at 20.8 per cent -- the highest wasting rate of any country, says the report. Child stunting rate in India, 37.9 per cent, is also categorised as "very high" in terms of its public health significance. In India, just 9.6 per cent of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet, it says.
The report says as of 2015-2016, around 90 per cent of Indian households used an improved drinking water source while 39 per cent of households had no sanitation facilities. Contradicting the government's claim of making India open defecation free, the report says "open defecation is still practised" in the country. "In 2014, the prime minister instituted the "Clean India" campaign to end open defecation and ensure that all households had latrines. Even with new latrine construction, however, open defecation is still practised," it adds.
This situation jeopardises the population's health and consequently, children's growth and development as their ability to absorb nutrients are compromised, it adds.
Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2 had announced that villages in India had become open defecation-free.
Lauding neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, the report says they have made significant advances in child nutrition, and their experiences are instructive. The report says that a 2015 case study was conducted to look at how Bangladesh achieved decline in stunting from 58.5 per cent in 1997 to 40.2 per cent in 2011. "The study attributed the decrease primarily to rising household wealth associated with pro-poor economic growth and gains in parental education, as well as health, sanitation, and demographic factors reflecting decreased fertility rates," it adds.
Nepal's remarkable reduction in child stunting from 56.6 per cent in 2001 to 40.1 per cent in 2011 is also associated with increased household assets, increased maternal education, improved sanitation, and implementation and use of health and nutrition programs, including antenatal and neonatal care, says the report.
Edited by Manoj Sharma